Dog Behavior

Pet Owner's Guide to the Dog Crate

Far too many potentially good pets are misunderstood, unfairly punished, isolated, abused or simply “gotten rid of” by otherwise kind and well-meaning owners who are unable to prevent, control or live with the common problem behavior of puppies and young adult dogs. The correct use of a dog crate could give many of these innocent animals the chance they need and deserve to spend to spend their lives as the appreciated pet of a satisfied owner.

A dog crate is a rectangular enclosure with a top and a door made in a variety of sizes proportioned to fit any type of dog. Constructed of wire, wood, metal or molded confinement for reasons of security, safety, housebreaking, protection of household goods, travel, illness or general control. The dog crate has long been accepted, trusted and taken for granted by dog show exhibitors, obedience and field trail competitors, trainers, breeders, groomers, veterinarians and anyone else who handles dogs regularly. Individual pet owners, however, usually reject the idea of using a crate because they consider such enforced close confinement unfair and even harmful to the dog.

As the pet owner sees it: “Its like a jail – it’s cruel – I would never put my dog in cage like that !” If this is your first reaction to using a dog crate, you are a very typical pet owner. As a reasoning human being you really value your freedom and since you consider your pet as an extension of the human family, it is only natural that closing him in a crate would be mean and inhumane; would probably cause him to resent and even hate you and might well result in psychological damage.

As a dog sees it: “I love having a room/house of my very own, it’s my private special place, my security blanket and the closed door doesn’t bother me” If your dog could talk this is how he might well express his reaction to using a crate! He would tell you that the crate helps you to satisfy the “DEN INSTINCT” inherited from his den-dwelling ancestors and relatives and that he is not afraid or frustrated when closed. He would further admit that he is actually much happier and more secure having his life controlled and constructed by human beings and would far rather be prevented from causing trouble than be punished for it later. So to you it may be a cage but to him it is a home.

The use of a dog crate is not recommended for a dog which must be frequently or regularly left alone for extended periods of time, such as all or much of the day while the owner is away at work, school etc. If it is attempted the dog must be exercised before and after crating, given lots of personal private attention and be allowed complete freedom at night (including sleeping near his owner.) His crate must be large enough to permit him comfortably to stretch out fully on his side and to feel that he has freedom to movement; it must also be equipped with a clip-on dish for water.

Unfortunately, no. Although, most pet owners can indeed use a crate successfully, there are always those animals, which simply will not tolerate this form of confinement. This reaction is not clearly as common with the young puppy, as with an adult dog, especially an “adoptee” of unknown background a dog, which may somehow have suffered a traumatic frightening experience while created or an un-adaptable “senior citizen” Some pure breeds also seem to have a special aversion to crates. In some cases a dog will use a crate readily as long as the door remains open, but will object violently the moment it is closed and/or he is left alone. It should be stressed here, however, that these reactions definitely represent the exception rather than the rule and that most average pet dogs can successfully train to use a crate.
If despite every effort at positive conditioning (leaving door open for several days while feeding from inside and fetching toys thrown into crate) your dog is obviously frantic or totally miserable when confined to a crate, salivates profusely, blood lies himself or urinates/defecates, forcing him to use one is indeed inhumane and can result in real physical injury should he attempt to chew his way out.
Even though a crate does not always work it is always worth a try, because when it does prevent or solve a problem behavior it is truly the “best friend” you and your dog could ever have.

Author Unknown

Crate Training Your Puppy

So, you are now convinced that crate training is the way to go and you are ready to begin the job. If you have just brought your puppy home and begin immediately, your job will be much simpler. If your puppy is already used to having the whole house or basement, our job is a bit harder. If yours is a naive (never used a crate) older dog-just coming into your home, the job will be a little harder yet. The worst dog to crate train is one that has been spoiled through incorrect crate training. Since the crate is a dog owner’s most useful tool we sure don’t want to spoil our dog by training it in the wrong way. So, lets begin.

Method 1:
You have just brought your puppy home and you are going to begin immediately to crate train him. You will need a crate that will hold your puppy when he is full-grown. So do not make the mistake of buying one too small.

1.) Place a blanket or some form of bedding in the crate. Do not use any pillows or cushions. Your puppy will only learn to destroy them in other areas of the house, such as your couch.
2.) Keep the crate in a lived in area of the house. A dog needs to feel itself a member of the family. Social isolation, such as the result of putting it in the basement is a very strong punishment tool; we don’t ever want our puppy to feel that being crated away from other family members is punishing it.
3.) Always encourage your puppy to carry his “chewies” (rawhides, dog biscuits etc.) into his box to enjoy at his leisure. Especially if you have two or more dogs, sending each to his crate with its chewies helps to prevent dogfights. Also, if he gets in the habit of carrying “his” things there you will know where to look for the inevitable things he will carry off.
4.) Let him get used to going in and out of his box well before you actually close him in for the first time. Whenever he goes in use the command “kennel”.
5.) The first time you actually close him in his box is when you will actually be present to supervise how he adjusts to it. Never just close him in and leave him the first time you crate him. This can and often does create a type of canine claustrophobia that may be impossible to overcome later. (Remember the spoiled older dog we talked about earlier? This is how they are made.) Suppose you will be preparing dinner and know that you will be present for the next thirty minutes in this area. It’s just a good time to put puppy in his crate and lock him in. Just like a baby put down in his crib or playpen, puppy will carry on, he may bark, scratch, chew whine etc. Use gentle discipline to quiet him or ignore him until he stops. Kind of play it by ear. If scolding makes it worse, do not scold. If ignoring him is impossible, he may need a firm rap on the cage to quiet him. Try not to look at him while he is fussing in his cage except for the brief moment of discipline. Then go on about your business. By the end of the half hour, he will most likely be sleeping.
6.) When you let him out is important that you simply open the door. If he wakes and wanders out, fine. If he continues his nap, even better. However, just never do anything that excites him when you let him out. Things like praising him for sleeping in there, fast games immediately, wrestling etc. If he gets too happy at being let out, locking him in will become a punishment. We sure don’t want that.
7.) Your puppy might be an oral type and shred everything you put in with him as bedding. Expect it, and never punish him for it. If he doesn’t, count your blessings. If he is one that shreds everything, don’t assume he can exist in there without bedding. If he is this way, always leave him a chew object of some type whenever he must be caged. If you don’t he likely would develop the horrible habit of self-mutilation. If you ever see the hideous results of that you will go to any length to make sure your puppy doesn’t develop the habit. The more oral a pup is, the more likely they will develop it especially in a barren environment (left alone with no toys or acceptable chew objects)
8.) At night it is desirable to move the crate alongside your bed. It doesn’t have to stay there forever. Remember, we have a little baby who is new to us and will require some comforting and maybe toilet duties that will necessitate our taking care of him. If you’re like me, you won’t want to be running downstairs to meet his needs. Our little puppy will be comforted by the sounds of his protector sleeping near and will tune up more quickly to our sleeping habits. Then after a week or so, you can move his crate to a more permanent location.

Method 2

This is for the puppy that has previously been allowed his freedom and has started doing damage or house soiling. You are going to laugh, but it is exactly the same as method 1. We only add this step – This puppy has already had a taste of freedom and will fuss more than the naïve puppy that has never had the freedom to get in trouble. You will need a double dose of patience. Never let him out of his crate if he is fussing. To do so will only increase his fussing. As he sees you calmly and serenely going about your business, he will learn to become calm in his box. If you give him too much attention either to calm him down or scold him for making too much racket (positive or negative attention), you will create a monster that will not be happy in his crate. Remember the analogy to the baby put down in his crib or playpen. If you give into the baby and pick it up every time it fusses, it will never calmly play in its’ pen or lay down for naps. Therefore, treat your puppy much the same as you would a baby in the same circumstance. If you have children you know what this means. If you don’t it is excellent training for if and when you have a human baby to care for.

Method 3

This is for the naïve older dog who has never experienced a crate before. It is important to remember that many very good dogs find the transition to a new home difficult. They may be real good for the first few days and then wreak havoc. Or conversely, they may wreak havoc the first few days then be fine after that. Either way it makes good sense to use a crate to prevent possible damage. You can always sell the crate when you no longer need it and recoup most of your money. It is cheap insurance. I would recommend using the crate for at least one month before giving it up. Remember, it is cheaper to buy a $100 crate than to replace a couch, flooring, doors, windows or woodwork. The older dog has the size and strength to do far more damage than a young puppy.

1.) First place the crate in a lived in area of the house. Place a very tasty treat inside the box and let him find it himself. Continue to do this until the dog freely enters the crate. Once he is entering it on his own, without fear or hesitation you can close him in. Do not leave the room during this time.
2.) Gently discipline him for any attempt to escape. Continue to quietly and calmly go about your business. Always remember that our actions speak louder than words to our dogs. When they see us calm and serene, they become calm and serene also.
3.) Is to move the crate to your bedside. Remember this dog is new to your family. He won’t want to be left all alone his first few nights either. Once he knows your schedule and routine, you can move his crate to its permanent spot.

Method 4

When you are dealing with a dog that has become claustrophobic in a crate, it is really seldom worth the effort to attempt crate training. If at all possible, I recommend building an insulated doghouse into your garage with a small pen outside. This is more expensive than a crate and many renters can’t afford this option. Also such a setup shouldn’t be used any differently than a crate would be. In other words, don’t expect to make the animal an outside dog. Dogs need the ability to interact with their environment. When kept in small pens or crated for long periods of time, they develop all kinds of problems. Unfortunately, it is the dog that pays the price and he pays it twice. The first is in the emotional trauma that leads him to develop the behavioral problems in an effort to cope with his life situation. The second is when he is destroyed because no one can live with him any longer. No dog deserves this fate. Remember his when you begin any crate training, so you do it right.

First of all, you must be honest. Did you create this problem in your dog? If you did, do not even attempt to retrain your dog. He has become conditioned to his environment. He may relearn crating in a new environment but always display claustrophobia in the original site where he first became claustrophobic. Is it absolutely necessary that the dog be crate trained? If he is destructive when left alone, is leaving him home alone absolutely necessary? Is there a friend who can baby-sit him during the hours you will be gone?

If alternatives to the crate can be found, I strongly urge you to use them. Do you have any irrational fears yourself, or know of anyone who does? If a human has difficulty overcoming his fears, imagine what we will be asking of this dog. If there is no other choice, let the task begin.

1.) It involves getting the dog to freely enter his crate. This means the dog gets absolutely No food except what he finds at the back of his crate. Some dogs can be so stubborn they will go almost three days before entering to eat. Don’t worry. He will not die of starvation. When he will go in to eat, you may notice that he will grab a bite of food and back out to eat, and then enter again to get another bite of food. Praise him when he does this.
2.) Begin to toss his tasty treats into the kennel. As he enters it, say the command “kennel”. Make a game of it. Praise him highly for running into the crate.
3.) When do you close him in for the first time? Make the sessions very short and never leave him alone until you are sure he can remain calm in the crate for at least 1 hour. You may start with five-minute sessions, then ten-minute sessions and continue increasing the time in five-minute segments.
4.) It is not so much an actual step as a type of handling necessary for this dog that must be kept in mind the whole time we are retraining. When he fusses in his cage (this dogs’ suffering will be very real and intense), you must calm him very carefully. Sit next to his cage and read a book or write a letter. Before the dog can really get started at whining, drooling, barking, howling or whatever, without looking at him say “its’ ok fella” and stuff a small tasty treat in through the grating. Gradually, instead of a treat, quietly “shush” the dog. Never let any trace of anxiety creep into your voice or mannerisms.
5.) Begin leaving the room while he is crated. Don’t try this until he will be calm for 1 hour in the crate. Leave the room for only 5 minutes. Increase the amount of time you leave the room in 5-minute segments until you can leave him alone for 1 hour. Never leave the house during this time. Remember that this dog becomes upset when he is left alone. We never want him to have a panic attack, because we aren’t there to prevent it. When we can leave the room for an hour then we are ready to begin short sessions of leaving him alone while we leave the house. This dog should never be subjected to over 3 hours at a time in a crate ever because he will always be prone to a panic attack. If panic attacks start up again after retraining, crating will no longer be an option for handling this dog.

An Article By:

Leslie Van Hulle Mary Jo Reichenberger
4610 Stagecoach Rd. 1522 W. 5th Ave.
Green Bay WI. 54311 Oshkosh WI. 54901
(920 863 – 8781 (920) 235 - 2284

Crate Training Know-How

Tap your dog’s basic den instincts, and make him/her more obedient – naturally.

Like their ancestors, dogs are born, nurse, and later eat solid foods in a secure enclosed area (called a den in the wild), and therefore tend to accept being confined to a crate when necessary. Teaching your dog that her crate is a safe place, and helping her make happy associations with it, can help you and your some survive behavior problems such as housebreaking and adolescent chewing.

Having said that, a crate should only be used along with proper training, exercise, and socialization. With a few basic guidelines, you can use it as a valuable tool in a variety of situations.

Crate Expectations

Whatever the age of your dog, it’s important to introduce her to the crate gradually. Here’s how to make a good start:

1. Put the crate in an area of your home where you or others will be around. You may want to keep the crate in the kitchen during the day and in your bedroom at night. To make your dog’s first experiences with the crate as pleasant as possible, put a soft blanket or towel (preferably one that smells like you) on the floor of the crate. Then throw a toy and some food treats inside.

Do NOT use force to make your dog go into the crate. Instead, let her explore and find the goodies. When she enters the cage, praise her, and let her come and go as she pleases. Play this game for several minutes. If your dog takes to this game, close the door for a few seconds after she goes in. Increase the amount of time that the door is closed, but stay close to the crate while you offer praise and treats.

2. Now that you’ve familiarized her with the crate concept gradually get her used to being in the cage for longer periods of time. Start feeding your dog her meals in the crate with the door closed. Leave the room while your dog is eating and then when she is just resting. When your dog shows no opposition, leave the house: First, go out for only 5 minutes, then gradually increase your time away to 30 minutes. If your dog can stay in the crate for half an hour without getting agitated, she should be comfortable for hours.

3. Don’t over do it. Try to use the crate for short times, both when you’re home and when you’re out. You shouldn’t confine your dog for more than 4 hours at a time and for no longer than a total of 10 hours in any given day. Always give your dog a special treat when you crate her. And remember, crated dogs need exercise and playtime too.

Housebreaking Helper

Because of the instinct to see it as their den, most dogs will not soil their crate. If you’re training a new puppy, take advantage of that instinct by keeping her in her crate overnight and in between walks. Most puppies can’t control their bladder for extended periods until they are 4 to 6 months old, so it’s important to get your puppy outside as often as possible. Take your puppy to one chosen place outdoors every 2 to 4 hours, especially at the times when she needs to eliminate (after meals, immediately after awakening from a nap, and soon after beginning play). When your pup does her business where and when she should, give her lots of praise and play with her as a reward. If your puppy gets distracted and doesn’t go when you take her out, don’t let her play. Return her to the crate, and take her out again 5 minutes later. The second time usually works.

If you can take your puppy our frequently, your housebreaking program will progress fairly rapidly. But if you are away from home during the day and confine your young puppy to the crate all day long, you may come home to a mess. Either hire a friend or a dog walker to take your puppy outside about every 4 hours.

Home Insurance

After your dog is housebroken, that crate will still be useful: this time to prevent household destruction from teething at 4 to 6 months and that awful play destruction that continues through adolescence (up to 2 years). Either in the crate or out, give your dog things she likes to chew: Rawhide strips, nylon bones, rope toys, and fleece toys are favorites. Praise your dog when she chews on her toys. If she chews on something she shouldn’t, say “NO!” and gently direct her to a favorite toy. Bitter sprays (sold in pet supply stores) applied to objects are also quite helpful to deter a dog. Make sure to give your dog adequate exercise and play. Obedience training also helps to work your young dog’s mind. And when you are not home to supervise, the crate can be a blessing.

After your dog finally gets over her chewing stages, give her access to one puppy-proofed room at a time. Soon she will graduate to the whole house. Most dogs do not need to be crated into adulthood. But if your dog seems to love her crate, leave it out for her to relax and sleep in. But keep an open-door policy: There should no longer be any need to shut her in.

Choosing a Crate: Crates come in different styles. The most common types are the pressed fiberglass models and the open-wire cages. Both are available in most pet supply stores. Fiberglass crates are the most sturdy. Many of the wire cages fold into the shape of a suitcase for easy transport. Make sure your crate is large enough to be comfortable for your dog at all stages of her life. She should be able to fully stand up, lie down, and chew on a toy without being cramped.

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